Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ, Story #21

This excerpt from my dissertation is the conversion-story summary of Respondent Twenty-One, a female from Nablus. Feel free to interact in the comments or download my dissertation as a free PDF!

The following is ©2014 University of Pretoria and Craig Dunning, and if used elsewhere, should be cited as:

Dunning, CA (2014) Palestinian Muslims converting to Christianity: effective evangelistic methods in the West Bank. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria, PhD thesis, pp. 377-380.

Respondent Twenty-One’s conversion was intimately associated with the mass conversion of her family; she was the last of her immediate family to convert (See Respondent’s Four, Five, Six, and Nineteen).

The family’s introduction to Christian faith occurred due to a health issue of the respondent’s younger sister. At the time, they were a family that was satisfied with their Muslim identity and involved in the community; the father was very religiously observant and becoming more so, the mother was less interested in religious things, but not completely uninterested. However, that would start to change, though unknown at the time, when a Muslim friend suggested the respondent’s father meet some Christian men who had been in the area recently. The friend said those men were from an eye hospital in Jerusalem and might be able to provide an eye surgery the respondent’s younger sister required.

In summary,the respondent’s father initially rejected the offer to meet the Christian men, but eventually agreed to meet them. The family’s conversion was not immediate. In fact, the respondent’s father went through a lengthy process of alternately inviting and forbidding the men to come to his home. In the end, as a result of the men’s continued witnessing, the influence of Bible reading, the Jesus Film and other Christian broadcasting, as well as dreams, all the members of the respondent’s family came to faith in Jesus one by one.

The conversion process of the various family members was pretty openly displayed in the home in that the Christian men were allowed to teach the Bible, distribute literature, and pray openly. Because Respondent Twenty-One was the last person in the family to believe in Jesus, this open display played an important role in her conversion. She was able to hear the various arguments and answers presented by the Christian men, and as each family member came to faith, they also tried to persuade her.

When the Christian men were allowed to visit the home, the respondent listened respectfully, but completely refused to accept their testimonies and arguments because she was a committed Muslim. She hated that the men were allowed to visit, and rejoiced inwardly during the times her father was angry with them and refused their visits.

She described the process of her family members coming to faith like a wave approaching the beach: “You see it in the distance coming toward you. At first it appears to be coming slowly, but the closer it gets, the bigger and faster it appears until it covers you over.” She explained that in the beginning she feared that someone in the family would believe, but it looked so far off that maybe it really would not happen. However, each time the men came to visit, the wave appeared to be bigger and coming faster until it finally overtook them. Eventually, like dominoes, one falling into the next, family members started believing. That led to more open sharing in the home, which eventually resulted in more pressured sharing of the faith.

As each domino fell, the respondent became more angry and depressed. She worried for her future: “How can I get a good husband if people know about my family? How can I remain part of a family like this? How can I continue to share a room with my sister who has shamefully betrayed Islam? I felt ashamed, angry, isolated, and even considered suicide or divorcing the family, if it was possible.” Perhaps more realistically, though, she said, “I worried the family would kick me out if I would not believe.”

The more the family pushed her to believe the angrier, more discouraged, and more depressed she became. Though her family members did not notice, the respondent’s emotional changes were so obvious that teachers and school officials became concerned and called a doctor and the police who initiated an investigation. They asked the respondent if anyone had done anything to her, or something had happened at home, but she protected her family. She thinks she refused to say anything partly because she would have been humiliated if anyone found out her family had left Islam, and partly because she still hoped they would return to Islam.

When the family found out about the investigation, they realized they had pushed too hard, and subsequently stopped pushing the respondent to believe. They continued to speak openly of their faith in the home, but they stopped directing religious comments toward the respondent. While this change was somewhat helpful, it did not prevent the respondent from feeling like the odd member of the family. “But it was better than before” she said. They continued to read their Bibles and she continued to pray, wear the hijab, and read her Qur’an.

After a few months in this new environment (i.e., no persuasion to convert to Christianity), the respondent began to have a series of dreams, which occurred over a period of about one month. She had the “same dream three or four times,” in which appeared “a man dressed in white surrounded by a bright light.” He did not speak, and she did not know his identity at the time. When she mentioned the dreams to her family, they concluded the reason for the dreams was her rejection of Jesus. Though she did not like their conclusion or the possibility that they may be correct, she had no alternative ideas about the source or reason for the dreams. After the third or fourth occurrence, the dreams stopped for about four to five months.

During this four to five month period, which was leading up to the family’s relocation, the respondent’s thoughts about the dreams were continually provoked when she heard members of the family discuss the Bible or pray. When the Christian men visited, which they did fairly often during this time, her thoughts returned to the dreams. Eventually, word of the family’s conversion spread through the area and a mob of teens attacked their home. These external threats necessitated the relocation of the family to a new area as well as a reconstructed identity.

In the new location, the respondent continued to wear the hijab, pray five times each day, and read the Qur’an. Shortly after their relocation, the family, including the respondent, went to a MBB family conference for the weekend. At the conference, one of the leaders politely asked the respondent to remove her hijab. Although the request to remove her hijab was offensive, the respondent complied. However, the request and her compliance somewhat dazed her. As she sat in the meeting, many thoughts raced through her mind as she witnessed uncovered women mixing with men who were not their husbands or family members: “How can these women feel so comfortable among these men while uncovered? How could he ask me to remove my hijab? How could I remove it?” The respondent said she wanted desperately to run away, but she did not. She remained at the conference and listened and observed what was happening there.

During the program, the respondent sat dutifully with her family, though she did not participate as the crowd worshiped the Lord in song. During this time, she prayed, “God, what are they doing? If this is the way, please convince me.” And within minutes, “the worship leader stopped and said, ‘someone here is asking to be convinced. Listen to the Holy Spirit.’” Then he continued leading worship. Immediately, the respondent said to herself, “That’s me! He’s talking about me.” However, she did not immediately tell anyone else because she wanted to process what had happened.

Later that night, she privately “prayed the prayer of salvation” that she had heard mentioned many times in her home, and that her brother, Respondent Nineteen, had reported praying. When asked to explain what she meant by “prayer of salvation,” she said that it was a spontaneous prayer in which she admitted to God that she “was a sinner and accepted the blood of Jesus as payment for [her] sins.”

Themes that emerged in this interview: Q and A, prayer, dreams, crisis, retreats/conferences/special events, the Jesus Film, meeting Christians/MBBs, an open witness, and fear or shame as a barrier to the gospel.

NEXT: Palestinian Muslims Coming to Christ: Story #22

Download my dissertation as a free PDF!

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